The Baker Upstairs: June 2018

6.27.2018

Fresh and Tasty Brown Rice Bowls

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These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

Okay, Oregon locals, who here loves Cafe Yumm? A friend recommended them to me right after we moved here, and it took me a long time to finally try them out. I was pretty skeptical about their whole concept, until I tasted my first Yumm Bowl and it was love at first bite. If you're not local and haven't tried them, they are bowls with brown rice and black bean at the base, smothered with an amazing and flavorful sauce, then topped with a protein (I always choose chicken) and fresh toppings like tomato, avocado, grated cheese, sliced olives, sour cream, and salsa. They're healthy and fresh and delicious, and are totally filling while still feeling light. Once we discovered how good they were, my husband and I couldn't get enough and visited Cafe Yumm for lunch at least every other week. Pretty soon, though, the cost of all those bowls started to add up and our bank account wasn't very happy. We decided to try our hand at making them at home, and came up with this fun copycat recipe.  I'm still working on the sauce a little bit, because it doesn't taste EXACTLY like the Cafe Yumm sauce, but it's super delicious all the same!

These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

We make these brown rice bowls at home at least once a week (and sometimes as often as 2-3 times per week) and we love them every time! They're so fresh and filling, and it's easy to customize them depending on what I have in the house. I've made them with barbecue chicken, taco-seasoned chicken, rotisserie chicken, and grilled chicken, and they're delicious each way. I always have cooked chicken in the freezer, and I like to make a big batch of brown rice and portion it out into meal-sized servings, then freeze it. I also buy cans of olives and black beans in bulk just to have them on hand for these bowls. Having the two main ingredients already cooked, and keeping most of what I need on hand really helps to make these bowls quick and easy to prepare. I definitely recommend using brown rice, because it adds some great texture and doesn't get soggy with all the toppings. We like ours with black beans, but you could easily substitute any beans you like. The most important part is to pile on the fresh toppings! My favorite way to serve them is with avocado, tomato, olives, sour cream, salsa, and grated cheddar cheese. Soooooo delicious!
Brown Rice Bowls

for the sauce:
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (I used this brand)

for the bowls:
cooked brown rice (I like to use this recipe)
black beans, drained and rinsed
protein of your choice (chicken, tofu, steak, etc.)
fresh toppings: tomato, avocado, chopped olives, corn, cilantro, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.

To make the sauce, add the oil, almonds, beans, and coconut milk to a blender and blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate for one hour or until ready to use. To make the bowls, layer about 1/2 cup of brown rice in the bottom of a bowl. Top with 1/4 cup black beans, then spread a generous layer of sauce on top. Top with protein and fresh toppings of your choice, then enjoy.

sauce adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe
These fresh and tasty brown rice bowls are super delicious, packed with protein, and loaded with fresh toppings!

6.25.2018

Biscuits and Gravy

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This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

Did you grow up eating biscuits and gravy? It's one of those foods that somehow I never tried until I was well into adulthood. My mom wasn't one for making biscuits, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times that she served pork when I was a kid, so biscuits and gravy were pretty much off the table. I tried them for the first time when my husband and I were on vacation a few years after we were married, and I was shocked by how delicious they were! Since then, they've been something fun that I order occasionally when we go out to eat, but I had never made them at home until now. I used my favorite trusty never-fail biscuit recipe, whipped up a quick sausage gravy, and we were all set!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

Now, if you grew up eating biscuits and gravy, and you have a fantastic family recipe that has been passed down through the generations, this recipe probably can't compete. But if you, like me, are just learning how to make them and need a good solid recipe to start with, this one is perfect! It's simple and quick, and pretty much foolproof. I used a roll of Jimmy Dean pork sausage (mostly because that's what was available at Target), but you could use any type of fresh sausage. I'm sure turkey sausage or even vegetarian sausage would work well. Feel free to adjust the salt and pepper to suit your taste, and you could easily add red pepper flakes if you want to spice it up a little. I was making it for my children, who think breakfast sausage is a little too spicy, so I kept the spice level pretty minimal. These biscuits and gravy are so delicious and filling, and we are definitely going to make them again and again!

This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!
Biscuits and Gravy

for the biscuits:
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
3/4 cup buttermilk

for the gravy:
1 pound pork sausage
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Grate the cold butter into the flour mixture, and toss to coat. Pour in the buttermilk and mix just until the dough comes together. (Be careful not to over-mix!) Pat the dough out to an even layer, about one inch thick, on a lightly floured surface. Fold the dough into thirds, as though you are folding a letter. Pat the dough out again until it is about one inch thick. Cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or small cup. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

While the biscuits are cooking, make the gravy. Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and mix to combine. Cook 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring to prevent lumps. Whisk in the salt and pepper, then cook until thickened. To serve, spoon the gravy over the warm biscuits and serve immediately.
This delicious biscuits and gravy recipe is so easy to make, and so filling. It's a hearty breakfast that the whole family will love!

6.20.2018

Strawberry Hand Pies

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These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

Who else LOVES strawberries? I mentioned earlier this week that we picked an abundance of fresh strawberries at a local farm, and we have had a great time finding ways to use them! These strawberry hand pies were an instant favorite with everyone in my family, and they've already requested that I make them again with each successive batch of berries that we pick this summer. They're so simple and fun to make, but they look very impressive, too! I love the layers of flaky pie crust, the sweet strawberry filling, and the crisp sugary top. You could definitely substitute another summer fruit, like peaches, apricots, blackberries, or blueberries in these pies, and I'm sure they'd be equally delicious. They're surprisingly sturdy, so they would be great for sending in a lunch box or bringing on a picnic. I served them with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, and my whole family loved them!
Strawberry Hand Pies

2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 recipe homemade pie crust (or 1 package refrigerated pie crust)
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

To make the filling, mix together the strawberries, sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, and simmer 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When the filling has cooled, preheat the oven to 425. Line two baking sheets with silicone or parchment. Roll out the pie crust and cut it into 24 4-inch circles. Cut vents in 12 of the circles (I used a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but you could cut vents with a knife instead if you prefer). Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling onto the 12 remaining circles, then place a vented circle on top of each. Press gently with your fingers to seal, then seal with a fork all the way around. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Brush the egg mixture over the top of each pie, then sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool before serving.
These delicious and adorable strawberry hand pies are easy to make, and the perfect summer dessert!

6.18.2018

Simple Strawberry Jam

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This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

It's finally berry season here in Oregon! Since we had such a great time picking and preserving berries last year, I have been looking forward to berry season all through the long cold winter. Our favorite u-pick farm (Smith Berry Barn, for you Portland locals) opened for strawberry picking a couple of weeks ago, and we couldn't wait to go pick some ripe berries. Last year we mostly picked shuksan berries, which I really liked, but they were so small that they were difficult to work with. This year we picked mostly Benton berries, and they were much easier to use for canning and cooking. They're sweet and plump, and we love them!

I ended up making 3 batches of this jam with the berries (for 21 jars total), and had enough leftover for some strawberry hand pies (recipe coming soon!), a batch of strawberry sauce, and some strawberry cream cheese bread. This simple strawberry jam preserves all the flavor of those gorgeous ripe strawberries, and tastes amazing on top of everything! We love to eat it on toast, biscuits, pancakes, and use it in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It has the perfect strawberry flavor, and comes out great every time!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

Last year I discovered the easiest way to wash a big batch of strawberries, and now it's the method I use every time. (It's not exactly brain surgery, but it has made my life easier, so I'll share it with you!) First, add all the strawberries you want to use to a colander, then place the colander in a bowl that is just slightly larger than it. Run cold water over the berries until the water is up to the top of the colander. Gently agitate the strawberries for a few minutes with your hands to shake loose any dirt or grit. Lift the colander out of the water, and they're ready to use. I'm always amazed by how much dirt I find in the bottom of the bowl afterwards!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

I let my kids help me make the jam this time (usually I'm too impatient when I'm canning to let the little ones help) and we had so much fun making it together. They helped me wash and hull the strawberries, and they especially loved mashing them with the potato masher. They got so exuberant that I ended up with some bright red berry juice splattered on the ceiling, but they had such a great time that it was totally worth it. :)

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!

I will caution you that when the jam is boiling on the stove, it tends to splatter a little, so I would suggest using the longest-handled spoon or spatula you have, and standing back as far as possible. As far as keeping the jam, I've added instructions for freezer jam and canned jam below, so feel free to use whatever works best for you. Either way, you won't be able to get enough!

This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!
Simple Strawberry Jam

around 6 cups fresh strawberries (to make 4 cups mashed berries)
4 1/2 tablespoons regular pectin
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups sugar

To make the jam: Wash the strawberries well to remove any grit. Hull the strawberries (I find it easiest to hull them using a spoon), then place them in a shallow dish. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the strawberries. Pour the strawberries and strawberry juice into a large measuring cup, and fill to 4 cups. Pour the mashed strawberries into a large pot and whisk in the pectin. Add the butter to the pot, and heat over high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches a boil. Pour in the sugar all at once and mix to combine. Return the jam to a boil, then boil three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let sit five minutes. Skim the foam off the top of the jam, if desired.

Freezer directions: Ladle the jam into clean, freezer-safe containers. Freeze for up to 6 months. When ready to use, place in the fridge for a few hours to thaw.

Canning directions: Before preparing the jam, fill a large pot or canning pot about halfway with warm water. Place 7 half pint sized mason jars into the water and add water to cover completely. Bring the water to a simmer, and simmer until ready to use. Place 7 canning lids in a small pot, add water to cover, and heat over low heat until ready to use. When the jam is done, retrieve the jars from the simmering water, and ladle the jam into the jars, filling to 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the top of each jar, then place a canning lid on top, and securing with a band (being careful not to twist it too tight). When all the jars are filled, return them to the canning pot and bring the water to a boil. Cover and boil for 10 minutes (adding additional time as needed to adjust for altitude). Remove from the canner and let sit until cool. Check to make sure the lids have sealed (they should not move up and down when you press on the middle of the lid) then store for up to 18 months. Refrigerate any unsealed jars or opened jam jars and use within 1-2 weeks.

adapted slightly from freshpreserving.com
This simple and delicious homemade strawberry jam is so easy to make. It's the perfect way to enjoy those sweet summer berries!
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